Texas A&M Galveston Cadets End First Cohesive Training Cruise in 12 years
GALVESTON, Texas — The Texas A&M Maritime Academy’s cadets sailed together for their 2018 summer sea term as an entire academy for the first time since 2005. With the support of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA), and many others, the cadets spent two months living, learning, and training aboard the 540-foot USTS Kennedy.
The cadets sailed from Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, on May 31, and travelled 4,958 miles over 60 days with port calls in Port Canaveral, Florida; New Orleans; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Tampa, Florida, before returning to Buzzards Bay. The 275 cadets were joined by 68 faculty, staff and crew. One additional highlight of the journey was a pass off the coast of Brownsville, Texas, where the cadets performed a salute to the Texas A&M Maritime Academy’s original training ship, the USTS Texas Clipper, which was sunk as an artificial reef in November 2007.
“Sailing as one unit, one crew and one Cadet Corps with my fellow classmates, that I now call my shipmates, was a tremendous success,” said Texas A&M Galveston’s Corps of Cadets Commander, Jack Clark. “We finally had a chance to sail on our own, create our own story and solidify a bond that exemplifies the Aggie spirit.”
During their time aboard the USTS Kennedy, cadets received classroom and hands-on training in navigation, meteorology, marine engineering, vessel operations, maritime safety, vessel maintenance, vessel security, the ship’s machinery and propulsion systems. When not in class, the cadets performed all of the shipboard duties they would be assigned in a career at sea and stood watch in sections around the ship during the 24-hour operations.
Texas A&M University at Galveston hosted receptions and enjoyed a warm welcome in each port of call. Reception attendees included former students, city and port leaders, and local leaders in the maritime industry. Proud family members also met our ship at each port and were delighted to have “their” cadet give them tours from the bridge, to the living spaces, to the six-story engine room down below.
“It was truly an all-hands-on-deck effort,” said Rear Adm. Michael Rodriguez, superintendent of the Texas A&M Maritime Academy. “The whole Texas A&M Galveston community came together on this effort as well as Texas A&M University in College Station, the Maritime Administration, Patriot Contract Services, the unions, our Navy’s Strategic Sealift community, and friends who work with us every summer. There was plenty of excitement in the months leading up to the voyage that carried through to the end. That enthusiasm will propel us into a new term and a brighter future for our Academy.”
The Texas A&M Maritime Academy is assigned a much smaller MARAD training ship, the USTS General Rudder, which is limited to carrying a maximum of 50 cadets. Since cadets require hands-on training at sea every year to graduate and be eligible for licensing by the Coast Guard, a large percentage of the Texas A&M Maritime Academy cadets have met their sea time training requirements through participation with other maritime academies or commercial shipping companies since 2006.
Rear Adm. Mark Buzby, the Maritime Administrator, and Col. Michael E. Fossum, the chief operating officer of Texas A&M University at Galveston, boarded the USTS Kennedy via Pilot Boat in the pre-dawn hours of June 24 for the final leg down the Cape Cod Canal to the ship’s berth at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. This had been a long journey from conception to completion, and there were lessons learned along the way, but all agreed this was a very successful summer sea term for the Aggie cadets.
After the ship was secured in Buzzards Bay, Fossum reflected, “Our ability to train together this summer as one academy — one crew — was an exceptional experience. I am incredibly proud of our cadets and the A&M team which worked incredibly hard to make this experience a resounding success. For the first time in over 12 years, our students were working at sea with our own faculty and staff, which provided them greater continuity in their learning and growth. Our cadets stepped up into leadership roles which their predecessors have not filled in over a decade.
“Over the last two months, we have seen them come together to help each other through the program, to hone their skills as future maritime professionals, and to do so with the occasional good cheer that comes from challenging, shared experiences. We returned to this dock today as a very different group than departed 60 days ago. We greatly appreciate the partnership and support from MARAD and Massachusetts Maritime, but we also look forward to the day Texas A&M University has access to a federal training ship large enough to meet the needs of our program and which serves as a readily available disaster response capability for the Gulf of Mexico region.”